Every new arrival wants to know if they can survive or live well in Thailand on X thousand baht a month?

It's a difficult question because each person has different needs. However, the following surveys and figures are from teachers actually working here! How much do they earn and what do they spend their money on?. And after each case study, I've added comments of my own.

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Approximate Thai Baht (฿) conversion rates as of 11th August 2020

฿31 to one US Dollar
฿41 to one Pound Sterling
฿37 to one Euro
฿22 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.64 THB to one Philippine Peso

Peter

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 400k + benefits

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

This is a full time salary. I am the Principal of a good (but not top tier) international school in Bangkok. I am not allowed to take additional paid employment.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

At least 250k, most of which is invested in long term mutual funds to provide an income during retirement.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I live in a 2-bedroom 80 sqm condo next to Benjasiri park. Whilst the rent is paid directly by the school, it was advertised at 45k.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

Whilst the school provides a car, I rarely make use of it (except for trips outside Bangkok). I prefer to rely on trains and taxis and probably spend up to 5k in a regular month.

Utility bills

3k per month usually covers the electricity, water and internet. The school provides me with an unlimited mobile phone package.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Whilst (fairly decent) food is provided free at school, I do like to visit good restaurants in the evenings and on weekends. This is therefore my biggest monthly expense at approximately 40k

Nightlife and drinking

Working as a Principal means that I have to be discreet. Parents have conservative views about what my social life should entail. The position also means that going to the pub after work with colleagues is awkward. Fortunately, I have friends in Bangkok who I met outside of teaching, so I'm not too lonely. In short, there is almost no spending in this category.

Books, computers

School provides me with a desktop in my office and a laptop to take home. There is also an excellent library that all staff can access free of charge. So, zero spending here

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

Whilst I work long hours compared to classroom teachers, I have an excellent standard of living. My rule is that I will work Saturdays when required (from home). I always keep Sundays and most of the school holidays for myself. My salary means that it is always possible to go somewhere nice during the end of term breaks (well it was until Corona).

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Tax. In the UK about 30% of my income was taken at source. In Thailand I pay approximately 15%

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

If you have no interest in saving or covering unexpected expenses, then I think 50k would cover a reasonable life in Bangkok. I am lucky that my job provides me with the power to save for retirement (10 years away). As I own no property, and received no inheritance, old age would be a worry without my salary.

Side note - I submitted this survey as I find them really interesting reads, but I haven't seen one from a Principal / Head of an international school. These salaries vary wildly. The range that I am aware of is 200k (I was offered this by a small but good British school) to almost a million baht (a friend earns this amount leading one the most prestigious schools in Bangkok).

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks a million, Peter. This is the first ever cost of living survey from an international school head teacher and like many others I'm sure, I've always been interested in how much they earn, Now we know. 400K a month. Wow!. And that's not taking into account all those lovely benefits such as having your 45K rent paid and being provided with a car, etc.

What I found most interesting is how tricky it is to enjoy a drink after work. I completely understand where you are coming from though. We've all had those nights where one drink turns into two and two turns into six. You have to be discreet in your position. It wouldn't bother me personally because I'm not much of a drinker these days but I wonder if the school frowning on boozy nights out would be a deal breaker for some?   

One thing's for sure, stashing away 250K a month, you've got a golden retirement ahead of you. It would be interesting to know what your plans are once you've turned your back on campus for good. Those long-term mutual funds are great investments! I only wish I had got into them sooner instead of taking terrible advice from a financial advisor here. My wife, who is far more knowledgeable about investments than me, puts all her spare cash into those funds. I always regret not listening to her advice years ago.


Jamie

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 30,000 + 15,000 (from partner) = 45,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I receive 30,000 baht a month from a private language school here in Bangkok, located in one of the city's shopping malls. I also get 15,000 a month from my girlfriend who is lucky to have a higher paying job, so can share bills with me.

Disclaimer: I am a student here (from UK) doing an internship, finishing a degree related to teaching and at the start of my TEFL career.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Usually between 15,000-20,000

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I pay 10,000 a month for a condo that is within 5 minutes walking distance to the BTS.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I spend 2,500 a month on transport. Although the condo is located next to the BTS, the language center isn’t. I usually have to get either a bus or a motorbike to the MRT. Then coming back, a motorbike from the MRT to the condo. It all adds up!

Utility bills

Usually between 600-1,000. That includes the electricity, wifi and water.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Food is usually between 9,000-10,000 a month. Certainly no big Western style restaurants at the salary I am currently receiving. Normally, it would be a big C type of food court or grabbing a few things from the local market nearby.

Nightlife and drinking

Very rarely. My budget doesn’t allow for this. If I was to make it a regular thing, a higher salary would be required.

Books, computers

I have a decent DELL computer (1-2 years old) and a recently brought an Ipad air. You can download pretty much anything for free nowadays.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

It's OK, if I was comparing myself to a Thai person. I live in a decent condo, I take motorbikes/MRT to work, I eat better food then some. However to really enjoy myself here and not to feel restricted I need a higher salary and unfortunately, due to my internship, I do feel pretty trapped.
Although I do save a slight amount, this money is for both myself and my girlfriend for the future, so I have to be mindful and not ‘dip’ into it.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

The price of food can be cheap and also inter-provincial travel. For example, I can get to Samut Sakhon for just 22 baht on a local air-con bus.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

I have always said you need at least 50,000. My 30,000 baht salary is pretty low for a native speaker with teaching experience. It’s certainly not a salary I want to be living on for too long.

Luckily, in a few months I will have been here for one year and I’ll be asking for a pay-rise. If I don’t get it, I’ll go elsewhere.

The future? I’ll be going back to the UK, getting a PGCE and getting a decent, serious paying job, hopefully at a private or international school in Bangkok. It sure beats running around at a language center for 30,000 a month.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Jamie.  You're almost living the life of the 90's language school teacher - 30,000 baht a month and a third of it going on accommodation. In the 90's it was doable because there was far less to spend your money on and Bangkok was a much cheaper place to live anyway. But times have changed, and as you say, 50,000 is a much more realistic target.

Not to worry though. You seem focused on your goals and the only way is up! I'm sure better times are not too far away.  


Thomas

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 40,000 to 50,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I make a salary of 40,000 baht a month from my full-time job at a Thai school in downtown Bangkok and I also make 10,000 baht a month from doing a corporate class at a small insurance company two evenings per week. It's a sweet deal because the company job is pretty much on my way home; however since the Co-vid outbreak, the lessons have ceased because the firm want to save every penny they can. I guess English lessons are always going to be the first to go!

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I try to save enough to make the annual trip home to Wales to see my family and friends and enough for a few weekends away in Thailand. I love Koh Samet and Koh Chang! I would put this overall cost at about 100,000 baht a year and I just about manage it.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I share a studio apartment with my girlfriend and it costs 6,000 baht a month. I pay the whole amount because my partner only earns 15,000 and it feels unfair to ask her to contribute. If the Covid situation continues much longer, she could be out of a job soon. These are quite stressful times for many of us aren't they?

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I get to school and back by motorcycle taxi and then half a dozen stops on the sky-train. Throw in the odd taxi at the weekend and this is probably a couple of thousand baht a month.

Utility bills

Add on another 2,000 baht for this I guess.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I try and keep this bill to as much under 10,000 baht a month as I possibly can, without going hungry of course. Even 10,000 baht a month is just 330 baht a day for two people so there isn't much scope for weekend Western treats. During the week I 'live like a Thai' as the old saying goes. I'll lunch on whatever lukewarm food the school is serving up in metal trays and I'll grab bags of food from street vendors on the way home. Food is the one area of life where I sometimes feel I'm going without. But you just can't do Western restaurants on a 40,000 salary when there are two mouths to feed. Maybe once at the weekend, but even then I feel guilty about lavishing 500-600 baht on one meal.

Nightlife and drinking

This is virtually zero. I go out drinking once in a blue moon. I enjoyed Bangkok after dark when I was younger but now I find it stale and boring.

Books, computers

I tend to just read articles while I'm surfing the internet. I'm not much of a reader.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

Could be better. I really miss that extra 10,000 baht from the company work in the evenings. It doesn't sound like a fortune but it makes all the difference. My standard of living seems to plummet and I become more stressed out when I'm having to rely just on my full-time salary.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Street food is still very reasonable, although I do tend to notice portions getting smaller and smaller. Little over a dollar buys you a meal. You won't be patting your stomach and loosening your belt, but those meals fill the gap.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

I've only ever taught in Bangkok so I only know how expensive this place can be. I think for a single guy, 40,000 is the absolute bottom end and even then you are not saving for any kind of future. I think 60,000+ would give you a much better lifestyle. As I've said, with just my 40,000 baht full-time salary and my partner's 15,000, that total of 55K really isn't enough. But we'll muddle on.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Thomas for such an honest survey.

"My standard of living seems to plummet and I become more stressed out when I'm having to rely just on my full-time salary"

I hear you loud and clear. I was in the same position for a number of years, earning a full-time salary and putting 10,000 on top with private work. That extra 10K does make all the difference. It pays your rent. It pays your food bill for a month. It gives you an extra 120,000 baht a year for travel. 

But as you say, these are stressful, uncertain times for many teachers (and those with low-earning Thai partners). Let's hope there are better times ahead.


Please send us your cost of living surveys. We would love to hear from you! This is one of the most popular parts of the Ajarn website and these surveys help and inspire a lot of other teachers. Just click the link at the top of the page where it says 'Submit your own Cost of Living survey' or click here.      


Ian

Working in Hat Yai, Songkhla

Monthly Earnings 31,500 + overtime (usually close to 40,000 total)

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I work full-time at a college. My overtime hours generally involve one-on-one or small group teaching, but sometimes fill-ins for other teachers at larger schools.

I should note that my contract for the coming year (2020 - 2021) included a pay raise. I worked for various companies in America between 1999 - 2015 and never once received a raise. It's a more responsible culture out here.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

At least 60% of my income, sometimes more. I am from America, a country where my generation has almost zero savings and loads of debt. As such, I made sure to reverse this situation in Asia. Also, a very overlooked opportunity in Thailand is the S.E.T. (Stock Exchange of Thailand). Unlike the Western stock markets, Thai shares are very cheap and have loads of potential upside. Not to mention, the covid hysteria caused a small, temporary dip in share prices - anyone smart enough to invest in February or March has seen at least a 50% return as of this writing (June).

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

7,000 baht per month for a condo in a building with two pools, library, lounge, recreation areas, rooftop garden, etc. I pay around 70% of the rent and my girlfriend pays 30% while she works on building up her sandwich / pastry business.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

Next to nothing. I walk and bicycle a lot. I live within walking distance of my school. I rent a 2nd hand motorbike from my friend and spend at the absolute most 500-1,000 on gas / petrol. I enjoy taking long drives in the countryside, along the coast, etc.

Utility bills

During the covid hysteria, the government has slashed electricity to the wonderful rate of 88 baht per month. This will end soon, and I expect to be paying about 1,000 -1,200. When I lived alone, I was paying 400, but I also use a lot less air-con than my girlfriend would prefer. Set the timer so that it switches off at 2am (ha ha). We share the costs of utilities. We have our own washing machine and as a consequence the water bill can be as much as 500 baht.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

As I mentioned above, my girlfriend has a nice little food business, so I eat like a king and very rarely go out to restaurants.

Nightlife and drinking

I'm a semi-professional musician, so 'nightlife' for me usually involves working and being compensated for all drinks and food. I very rarely go to a bar unless music is involved. I enjoy high-quality vintage wines and single malt scotch, but I have 'connections' so I don't pay too much.

I suppose it's worth mentioning that I finally quit smoking (cigarettes) about 8 or 9 months ago. In America, cigarettes are insanely expensive, and I was never a heavy smoker but it still took its toll on my income, not to mention my health. I tried to quit many, many times and kept failing. It was a lot easier to stop smoking here in Thailand as the lifestyle is a lot less stressful compared to the West. I had some help from the Thai government program where you can get free / discounted nicotine replacement products, etc. I stepped down my dosage using the gum and have been nicotine-free for most of this year already! I'm in favor of smoking more medicinal varieties of plant material however, especially since they are being legalized. ;-)

Books, computers

I use wifi at the public areas of my condo. I'm a book addict, and there happens to be a free book exchange at the local university. If I'm traveling, I'll pick up books at hostels, etc. I always re-donate the books when I'm finished with them, so the cost is about zero. The last time I actually purchased a new book was Bruce Springsteen's autobiography in Rotterdam, NL back in 2017, for I think 15 euro.

The local public library is right across the street from where I live, but for some reason they've been closed since last year. It's a pity because it's a very nice facility. I don't think they have many English-language materials though.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

180-degrees different from, and infinitely better than, what it was in America.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Rent and healthcare - the two things that tend to keep Americans broke. Also transportation is reasonably priced here. It is difficult to compare with the U.S.A., since that country does not have reliable, responsible, affordable transportation systems anywhere within its borders. I grew up thinking the NYC subways were supposed to be the envy of the world, 5555!!

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

Depends on one's definition of 'survival'. If the word is taken literally, as in 'not dying', then perhaps 1,000 baht. Monks live on less than that.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Ian for a very interesting survey. We don't hear from too many foreign teachers who dabble in the Thai stock market but I guess they're out there. My wife does quite well with Thai shares but she's often moaning that she doesn't have enough free time to devote to analyzing the market, etc. She has a couple of friends who buy and sell shares far more seriously and they make great money! 

All in all, it sounds like you enjoy life here in Thailand far more than you did back home and you make some good comparisons. 

Good luck with the pastry business! 


Karen

Working in Bang Bon

Monthly Earnings 38,000 baht plus an income of £350 from the UK

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

My salary from teaching is 30,000 baht. I make another 5,000 baht from teaching online and 3,000 from a private student I teach face-to-face. In addition, my income from the UK is from a rental property.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Zero.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

The rent on my condo is 9,000 a month.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

5,000 baht on taxis and MRT fares.

Utility bills

About 1,200 - 1,500 on electricity and a 1,000 baht for wi-fi and phone.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This comes to about 10,000 baht a month.

Nightlife and drinking

At the minute zero due to the virus situation but usual nights out in central Bangkok are 2,000 baht a night on average.

Books, computers

About 500 baht. I wish there were more good second hand bookshops in Bangkok.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

It's OK but definitely not luxurious. My condo is 30 sq metres but has access to a pool and gym (although it's a Thai style gym where almost nothing works)
The odd extravagance of a weekend away or a stay over in central Bangkok is mainly paid out of the savings I had on arrival.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Anything you can buy at the roadside such as fruit/ vegetables in season.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

To survive and be happy, I would say at least 40,000 baht. The nearer you are to central Bangkok, the more you'll need.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Karen. So with that income of about 14,000 baht from a rental property in the UK, Karen's earnings get pushed to just over the 50K mark, which is OK for the Bangkok suburbs I guess. In fact to quote Karen - 'it's OK but not luxurious'.   


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 333 total

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